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We caught up with choroegrapher and former Watts Gallery Artist In Residence Chris Pavia, before the opening of the film installation Beyond the Waves.

Inspired by G F Watts’s sculpture, Beyond the Waves is a new dance work by internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer, Chris Pavia, featuring dance artists from Stopgap Dance Company.

What have you been doing since your residency at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village?

Teaching workshops and working in schools mainly. There was a school in Bradford where I taught a session based on Captains Duties (a piece conceived and performed in the Watts Gallery in 2019). Right now, I am working on my new outdoor work The Forests, which is supported by The National Trust, South Downs Park Authorities and the Arts Council.

Can you tell us a little about Beyond the Waves?

The story of Beyond the Waves starts with a sculpture called Physical Energy, and that is about horses running uphill and horses running down hill. [The sculpture] used to be on wheels and they used to wheel it out. So the idea behind [this project] was exploring how horses run through water.

I had the inspiration from a scene in Lord of the Rings, where Arwen takes Frodo on her horses and she summons the waters, and then the waters come from the waterfalls. The horses, how they run, and how the water collides around the horses are visually stunning and expresses energy and motion.

A still from Chris Pavia's Beyond the Waves

Beyond the Waves, Photo by Ellen Love

Can you talk us through the process of creating Beyond the Waves?

First I gave the dancers some words in the studio. The dancers had to improvise the movement around the words that I gave them.

[Because of the pandemic], to create the piece we had to narrow the space, and have one dancer over here and another across the room. I sent some pictures for inspiration, over Zoom. Some of the rehearsal had to be on Zoom as well.

Then I came up with some short sequences for them to learn. I asked them to try to find collisions, crossing and colliding. I wanted them to imagine the energy, the sound of water going through them, and how the horses are trotting.

Beyond the Waves is a response to sculptures made by G F Watts, what does it mean to have it shown here now alongside this new exhibition of his sculptural work?

Overjoyed and overwhelming, the work and the process. It’s amazing to show it and to find out what people think of it.

Chris Pavia in the sculpture gallery during the filming of Beyond the Waves

Beyond the Waves, Photo by Ellen Love